The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Chatham University winter commencement cut to save $100,000; students express frustration at late announcement

Graduation at Chatham University. Photo Credit: Chatham University

Chatham University announced via email on Sept. 29 that it would no longer hold a winter commencement. The announcement came just over two months before students expected the ceremony to take place, sparking questions and frustration from students graduating in December. 

Historically, the winter commencement ceremony has been held at the Shadyside campus in the Athletic and Fitness Center. The University invited winter graduates to join the spring commencement in April, held at the David L Lawrence Convention Center.

 The decision to cancel the commencement ceremony was driven by the University’s ongoing efforts to decrease a deficit in the operating budget. According to Vice President of Academic Affairs Lisa Lambert, the cost of the winter commencement has been increasing over the years, costing the University more than $100,000 in recent years.

“We have to hire out all the audio and recording and photography services. Then we have to pay overtime for police and facilities and all the other expenses because it’s on a weekend,” Lambert said. “Incrementally adding the students to the convention center, it’s not even a tenth of the cost of the winter commencement.” 

However, some students felt like the invitation was not an adequate solution to their ceremony being cut, as they were unsure of where their career paths would take them after graduating. 

“With my degree, more often than not, you go into government work,” said Danielle Thompson ‘23. “I could be here in Pittsburgh or I could be elsewhere. I could be in a different state, heck, even a different country at that point.” 

For other students graduating in December, a canceled graduation ceremony feels like a repeat of the disappointments felt by their canceled high school graduations at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. 

“I came to Chatham in 2020,” said Lucy Ruzanic ‘23. “We didn’t really feel like we finished high school and now it’s gonna feel like we never really finished undergrad. … Walking in the spring, that’s a great thing to give us, but we finished early and we want to be celebrated early.” 

Perhaps the most common frustration among students impacted by the decision is the lateness of the announcement, as many students had already begun to make plans with family members from out of state and scheduled photo sessions for commencement weekend. 

“I had plans for my family from out of town to come in, since I’m not from here,” said Selena Justus ‘23. “I had family from New York, Florida, South Carolina and Texas. I was having all of them look at hotels early and then I had to call and tell them ‘hey, it’s canceled.’” 

When asked about the late announcement of commencement being cut, Lambert was quick to apologize for the delayed announcement, stating that her biggest regret was the timing of the email. 

“We knew before school started that this was going to happen,” Lambert said. “We had a lot of emails going out at that time and it got pushed back and I said, ‘I think it needs to go out right away,’ but I didn’t scream and holler and I should have screamed and hollered and that is my fault.” 

She added that while the budget deficit was a driving force in the decision to cut the winter commencement, a discussion about the future of winter commencement had been started before the deficit was ever addressed. 

“It was money that drove it, but one of the things we had already been talking about, even before the deficit, was what to do about winter commencement,” Lambert said. “We’d had complaints in the past that people felt it was not an equitable kind of ceremony. … We were always saying we’ve got something that’s outgrown our facilities and people aren’t 100% happy with.”

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About the Contributor
Riley Hurst-Brubaker
Riley Hurst-Brubaker, Media Editor, Video
Riley Hurst-Brubaker ‘24 has been a part of the Communiqué staff since 2021 and currently holds the position of Video Editor. Originally from central Pennsylvania, Riley came to Chatham University to experience life in Pittsburgh. She chose to pursue a degree in communications, following the journalism track, after taking the Communiqué newsroom class and attending several meetings. When she’s not creating content for the Communiqué, she enjoys spending time with friends, reading anything that’s not required for a class and drinking more caffeine than is recommended by friends and health professionals. 

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